Arepa 3000: A Venezuelan Journey into Space

Los Amigos Invisibles

album cover

The Now Sound of the Latin Diaspora

Despite the subtitle, there's no space exploration on the second U.S. release from the super-inventive Venezuelan dance band Los Amigos Invisibles. There is, however, a fair bit of time travel: One minute the six-piece ensemble is chasing (and nattily embellishing) a retro '60s mod vibe, complete with shimmering organ. Then along comes a snappy drum loop, and suddenly the pulse quickens, and we're three hours into some Ibiza rave circa 2000, with the DJ spinning a weird mix of samba and stutter-stepping rhythm at 180 beats per minute.

Those transitions happen fast and reveal much about the intentions of this unusual outfit: Los Amigos approach music the way a globe-trotting DJ would, segueing between eras and styles without ever compromising the essential Latinness of the pulse. In these grand, campy songs, hints of old-school cha-cha bump into Brazilian batucada, and grooves that echo rumbling '70s funk magically transform into gaudy disco fantasies (one of which is titled "Masturbation Session"). Often music drawn from such far-flung sources feels like gimmickry. Not this stuff. Following the example of Funkadelic, an obvious inspiration, Los Amigos Invisibles start with authentic grooves, and add the nuttiness on top. The lyrics of "El baile del Sobon" amount to a derisive parody of the rituals of merengue; the music, meanwhile, is a totally locked-up and utterly reverent celebration of the dance style. That cheeky commingling offers a hint of what the next utopia might sound like if Los Amigos have anything to do with it: One globe under a giddy pan-Latin groove.

Genre: World, Venezuela
Released: 2000, Luaka Bop
Key Tracks: "Mujer policia," "La vecina," "Masturbation Session," "No le matas mano"
Catalog Choice: Superpop Venezuela
Next Stop: Funkadelic: One Nation Under a Groove
After That: Bloque: Bloque
Book Page: 19

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#1 from Ramon Martinez, Philadelphia - 10/02/2008 5:02

Dear Mr. Moon: To include such a great Venezuelan band in your list is an honor and a joy to witness. Los Amigos Invisibles are one of the few bands in the world whose music turns into immediate happiness when experienced, whether live or recorded. They deserve their place in your book and I am so happy you chose them. I do disagree in the choice of the record. Arepa 3000 is a fantastic record but somewhat disjointed and difficult to digest. The songs have little connection between each other and, unless you grew up in Caracas, you would be hard pressed to understand the narrator’s voice at the beginning of the record (a legendary Venezuelan comic by the name of Perucho Conde). I find myself going back to one LAI record over and over again, and that record is “The New Sound of the Venezuelan Gozadera;” their debut album with Luaka. The album is full of lyrical and compositional gems and, although equally disparate in the flow of the songs, the diversity makes up for the lack of cadence in the playlist’s order. With songs like “Ultrafunk,” “Mango Cool,” “Aldemaro en su Camaro,” Ponerte en Cuatro,” “Cachete a Cachete,” and I could keep going, this is the classic LAI album for genrations to come. I don’t think there will be a day in the future when a youngster who listens to this album will not smile. It’s an instant masterpiece and what set up one of the most respected bands from Venezuela in the world of music. I also wanted to include one composer of Venezuelan origin who has been, not only an influence to LAI, but an influence to many artists around the world. His name is Simon Diaz, and before you die, please do yourself a favor a listen to his best recordings. “Caballo Viejo” and “Tonada de Luna Llena” are two of the many classics he composed, cuatro en mano, with just his voice and his four-stringed guitar. Simon DIaz is the Venezuelan’s Bob Dylan; Aldemaro Romero, it’s Miles Davis; Alirio DIaz it’s Segovia. Hope you can listen to these artists before you die. They are definitely worth it. Thanks for including Los Amigos Invisibles. They are an amazing band.

#2 from croutonboy, Brooklyn, NY - 10/14/2008 7:11

I completely agree…this is an excellent choice, and the comparisons to Funkadelic equally apt.  I saw them live in NYC a few years back and they had the same intense, jump-on-your-table-and-dance energy that this album exudes with every beat.

#3 from Michael Dozier, Irvine, CA - 10/15/2008 8:58

I couldn’t agree more mr ramon martinez’s comment above. i felt much the same way. in my case when visiting this site i discovered that there were links sorting the selections by country, naturally i went to see venezuela. i was surprised and happy to see los amigos invisibles, but equally surprised that simon diaz was not included. you really should listen to his music, just him and his cuatro…

#4 from Paul Looves - 03/24/2009 9:44

Totally agree with the comment from Ramon. I felt the same way too. This could be a great choice without questions.

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